Wednesday, 31 July 2013

#QuackCWaC: The cost of senior management subscriptions

Following a Freedom of Information request the following information is now publicly available

Please note that this excludes corporate memberships that may be accounted for against their name (such as the Council’s annual LGA subscription, and contribution to the membership of Cheshire and Warrington Enterprise Commission).

Chief Executive – Steve Robinson: £889.00 

· Association of County Chief Executives - £265.00

· Dean's Breakfast subscription -  £40.00

· Chester Business Club Membership 2013/2014 -  £186.00

· SOLACE –£398.00

Director for Children and Young People – Gerald Meehan: £3,135.00

 · The Association of Directors for Children’s Services (ADCS) - £3,135.

Director for Communities and Environment - Steve Kent: £995.00

Director for Resources – Julie Gill: £4218.00

· Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) Professional Membership - £300

Director Regeneration and Culture -  Charlie Seward: £0

The total cost for individual memberships of, and subscriptions to, organisations by the Chief Executive and Directors is: £9237.00

Monday, 29 July 2013

#QuackCWaC City of Culture bid: Yet another cock-up

The first question which must be asked is why did he council make such an early bid for the City of Culture title when even the consultants hired to help with the bid stated in 2011, whilst describing Chester to another council, -  "Chester has a popular racecourse and claims that its cultural festivals generate £16 million a year of additional expenditure by visitors. Its festivals are managed by an
arms-length company with support from the City, Arts Council and businesses. The performing arts and museums offer is, however, quite weak." (My emphasis)

So why not wait until the Theatre was up and running and the museums had been improved and make a bid with much more chance of success when the next the opportunity arose?

The answer may come in a Chester First article about the failed bid.

- "former Chester MP Christine Russell, who has been leading the campaign for a new theatre and cinema, said the bid had been an “own goal” and branded the council “deluded”." (My emphasis)

The deluded tag was validated some days later when council leader Mike Jones suggested it was a “huge compliment” that Chester failed to make the UK City of Culture 2017 shortlist.

What we have is a council spending taxpayer's money on a bid which had little chance of success, especially when up against other cities with established theatres and better museums. Then trying to spin the deluded attempt by suggesting the outcome was a huge compliment.

The MJ awards: Another taxpayer funded jolly for 2 cllrs and 18 staff

The Municipal Journal, or The MJ as it is better known, states that it is the UK’s leading weekly magazine for council chief executives and their teams of decision-makers in local authorities and allied sectors. It offers an insiders’ view of what’s going on and what people are thinking in today’s ever changing and challenging world of local politics – the latest news, incisive comment in-depth features and interviews, business analysis and the top recruitment vacancies.

They also organise the annual LGA exhibition and also run our own range of conferences, round table debates and workshops. Once a year we celebrate all that is great about local government at the prestigious MJ Achievement Awards - all of which gives local government senior executives the opportunity to meet, debate with peers, learn and network with key contacts.

The MJ held it's annual awards ceremony at the Hilton, London on the 20/06/2013. There were 15 categories of awards plus one for Best Achieving Council. Out of the 15 categories Cheshire West and Cheshire council were finalists for four awards Transformation through IT, Trading Standards and Environmental Health, Environmental Services and Democratic Services but only won one, ironically for democratic services.

They were also highly commended in another category, Environmental Services,  along with Durham County Council.

In these difficult times one would have expected the council at most to have sent a couple of representatives to collect the awards, however, they actually sent 20 people in total (2 cllrs and 18 staff), all at the taxpayer's expense.

Accommodations costs alone were £200 per person for one night Total £4,000. The table cost was £3750 which included food drink and table hire and the travel costs for all 20 travelling by train were £1327.81. Grand total £9077.81

Unfortunately this isn't the end of the matter because the council also financially supports the LGA which in turn also supports the MJ awards as do many other taxpayer funded organisations. In addition the council also supports other MJ organised events for the LGA. Furthermore, many of the other supporters of the awards are either other taxpayer funded organisations or companies with which those organisations spend even more taxpayer's money with.

Therefore the true cost of all these taxpayer funded events jollies are, when you also take all the indirect 'incestuous' funding into account, much much higher that they initially appear.

When you consider that the council recently decided to charge a foodbank some £5,000 rent it would appear somewhat insensitive to then spend double that amount on a jolly for 2 councillors and 18 staff.

Bus shelters: Now you see them, now you don't.

Another almighty cock-up by the council

Even after ignoring the controversy over whether it would have been better and cheaper to refurbish the previous brick built shelters rather than demolish them and install temporary new ones, the council still couldn't get it right.

Read the unfolding bus shelter story in the Chester Chronicle.

Photo supplied by J Murray
However, whilst the article mentions a dispute regarding some unfinished electrical works it doesn't highlight the fact that electrical works were not part of the original contract with the supplier.

Photo supplied by J Murray
Neither does it mention that initially the bus shelters were delivered wrong way round (I.e. exit at left rather than right end). The supplier stating that the council specified them that way and the disputed £10k is for remedial work due to council's poor specification.

So what we appear to have is a council ordering the wrong bus shelters then expecting the supplier to pay for their mistake and for work not specified in the original contract.

It became such a farce that once again the council ended up in the Rotten Borough pages of

I'm back

Due to my annual holidays plus a number of other priorities cropping up at the same time I haven't been in a position to post any new material for a few weeks. However, I am back now so what will follow over the next two days will be a number of catch up posts highlighting the council's cock-ups whilst I have been away.